(CNN) — Unemployment benefits are becoming a financial lifeline for millions of Americans after their employers shut their doors to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.
The growing tsunami of layoffs has overwhelmed state unemployment systems as a record number of workers try to apply for benefits. The situation isn’t likely to improve anytime soon.
The bottleneck comes as Congress passed a historic expansion of jobless benefits — but applicants have to be able to file their first claims before the checks can start coming.
The situation is so bad that governors have begun apologizing to frustrated people who can’t file claims and have to wait longer for their money.
“Unemployment benefits are extremely essential to support workers who are trying to make ends meet and stay connected to the labor market,” said Kali Grant, senior policy analyst at the Georgetown Center on Poverty & Inequality.